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Houston's Dutch Community

The settling of immigrants from Holland played a large part in the development of Houston.

In March of 1927, Jacob Prins (grandfather to Evelyn Jaarsma of Houston) and his family emigrated from Andyk in North Holland to Edmonton, Alberta. This man became instrumental in encouraging other Hollanders to come to Canada. He did this by working with the Colonization Department of the Canadian National Railway. Eventually, Jacob Prins helped settle more than 250 families in western Canada.

In 1937 Jacob Prins travelled into the Bulkley Valley and discovered that this was an area that would appeal to Dutch farmers. He sent back word to Holland, encouraging settlement in the Houston and Barrett areas.

The Pieterman Groot family in 1938 was the first of the Hollanders to arrive in Houston, although other individuals (George Prins, Pieter Ruiter and Nanne Vriend) had already been in the area to investigate the prospects for settling here. Pieterman Groot and his family lived in the Catholic Mission House in Houston (then an abandoned house near the railway) for about six weeks while a livestock shelter was being renovated into a home for them. Then around 1939 more men and their families (and some singles) arrived, including Gerard Baggerman, Arthur De Jong, Pieter Ruiter, Nanne Vriend, Peter Vlaar, Matthew Kwantes, Norman Groot, John Brienen, George Prins, John Veenstra, Roelof Seinen (who moved to Houston from Edam, Saskatchewan, where the Seinens had been living since 1927), B.J. Van Rhyn, Bill Van Der Wiel and Thys Stad. Many of these surnames are found among Houston residents today.

Another large group of Dutch immigrants came shortly after WWII, when much of Holland lay in ruins. Immigration from Holland continued until the late 1950s. After that it slowed down considerably.

The trains bringing in the new immigrants stopped where it was convenient. In April 1939 Roelof Seinen unloaded his family and his belongings right in front of his farm off Lieuwen West Road near Barrett. Later, his daughters Lucy (Lieuwen) and Jennie (Heimstra) flagged down the train and delivered homemade pies to the engineer to say thanks.

Many of the Dutch settlers had been trained in agriculture, and they applied this knowledge to their newly acquired land. There are reports of fields of potatoes and cabbages which they sold by the boxcar load. Later they branched into other areas - poultry, dairy, beef, seed production, and mixed farming.

Interested in community affairs, members of the Dutch community have contributed actively to local government. Early settlers Norman Groot and B.J. Van Rhyn served on town council and on the health board, among other offices. Adrian Meeuwissen has served Houston as Councillor, Mayor, and chairman of the school board. Tom Euverman, the mayor from 1986 to 2002, served for a long period of time in local government.

The Dutch were the first to establish a fire department in Houston, with B.J. Van Rhyn, John Veenstra, and Bert Woelders serving as early fire chiefs. They have also contributed much to the economic development of this area, via private businesses and the development of such organizations as the Houston Co-op (esp. Norman Groot), the Chamber of Commerce (esp. Herman Ruiter), the Credit Union (esp. ill Stad) and the Farmers' Institute (esp. G. Baggerman).

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